Dec 06, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Members of the Skaneateles community want their next school district superintendent to be a visionary passionate about his or her work, an outstanding communicator with a strong background in teaching and curriculum, someone who is approachable and with unquestioned integrity who is collaborative but also a strong decision-maker.
These are the general results of the public survey, focus group discussions and individual interviews done by the consultants from the Warner School of Education for the Skaneateles Board of Education as it seeks to find the best candidate to be the next leader of the school district.
“A fair number of respondents want this person to be inspiring,” said lead consultant Henry J. Peris, who, along with his colleague Tim McElheran, presented the results of the first phase of their work to the BOE at its Dec. 4 meeting. “When you look at the survey results, the district [also] wants an expert.”
The Skaneateles BOE hired consultants from the Warner School in late October to assist in the search for its next superintendent. In November the district posted on its website a community survey asking what qualities and characteristics district residents wanted in their next superintendent. On Nov. 19, the consultants also spent an entire day in Skaneateles meeting with students, teachers, administrators, parents and residents to get face-to-face input during focus groups and interviews. The consultants also researched key data regarding the school district to better inform the search process.
The online survey, active from Nov. 1 to 30 on the district website, had 214 total respondents, the largest group of which identified themselves as parents (62 percent), the next largest as residents (57 percent) followed by teachers (18 percent), according to the report, which Peris summarized for the board.
The top five qualities respondents want in a superintendent are, in order of importance: a visionary and inspirational leader with goals, a passion for educating children, someone who listens and considers all points of view, an effective decision-maker and an excellent communicator.
As for professional experience, 68 percent of respondents wanted the candidate to be a former teacher, while 65 percent wanted someone with previous experience as a superintendent.
The results of the focus groups and interviews showed that more than anything else respondents want the new superintendent to create a strong vision for the district and will act collaboratively to lead the community and the schools to that vision, according to the report. However, while seeking a strong vision, residents also want the new superintendent to honor and respect the traditions of the present and the past.
One of the important issues before the board both in general and immediately at the Dec. 4 meeting was on residency – whether the superintendent will be required to be a district resident or not. All of the consultants’ research showed a mixed community reaction to the question, but many residents do want the new superintendent to be a district resident, and some said it would be a “deal-breaker” for them, no matter a candidate’s qualifications, if they did not want to live in the district.
“I don’t think residency will be a problem, people will want to move here,” Peris told the board. However, candidates will want to know what the residency requirement is, so “that is something you’re going to have to wrestle with,” he added.
When the report summary was finished, BOE President Evan Dreyfuss polled the board on the question of residency. Members Thomas Lambdin, Keith Krieger, Michael Card, Susan Murphy and Susan Benjamin all agreed that residency in the district should be “strongly encouraged” but not essential. Dreyfuss said he felt the most important consideration was a candidate’s ability to lead the district rather than live in it, while BOE Vice President Kathryn Carlson said she felt residency was important, especially if the person hired lived a long distance away.
In the end, the board decided to word the job announcement as residency “strongly preferred” especially if the candidate would be moving from a great distance. McElheran said it was typical for districts to allow 12 to 18 months to allow a newly-hired superintendent to move into the district. The BOE previously and agreed to offer up to $7,500 in moving costs to the successful candidate.
With the consultants’ report in-hand and a decision made on a residency requirement, the BOE completed the final step for advertising the job announcement. The announcement had already been made on a few websites, Peris said, but on Wednesday, Dec. 5, the full announcement and applications was posted on the Skaneateles CSD website and on the American Association of School Administrators website. The board will also print 250 copies of a brochure to be mailed to candidates that explains the district, the community, the terms of employment and the preferred candidate profile.
Applications for the position will be accepted by the board until Jan. 19, 2013. An appointment is expected to be made in April, with the new superintendent expected to begin the job in July.
To read the full consultant report or to view the superintendent job brochure, visit the district website at skanschools.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached ay firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.